Rural Zones

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Cherie Bennett

Recognizing that many small, rural downtown areas have experienced varying levels of economic distress, DCA worked with the Georgia General Assembly to secure passage of a bill calling for the development of “Rural Zones.” The establishment of up to 10 zones per year will enable businesses and investors to obtain tax credits for qualified activities occurring within designated Rural Zones. DCA, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, will receive applications and designate zones each year to provide an incentive for job creation and private investment in the designated locations.

Credits will be available for job creation activities, investment in downtown properties, and renovation of properties to make them usable. The credits can be layered on top of each other; however, no credits are eligible without the job creation element being present. This program cannot be used in conjunction with any other state tax credit program. 

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  • The cities of Adel, Douglas, Eatonton, Forsyth, Rossville, Villa Rica, and Washington have been designated as Rural Zones by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) and were recognized at the agency’s annual Fall Conference in October.

    The 2017 legislative session marked the creation of the Rural Zones program. The General Assembly tasked DCA and the Georgia Department of Economic Development with implementing and overseeing this initiative which provides tax credits to individuals creating jobs and making qualifying investments within historic downtown areas.

    Each Rural Zone designation lasts for five years, and activities to begin earning tax credits within these seven new zones begins Jan. 1, 2020. Communities are encouraged to develop strategies and share information about the benefits to businesses and investors, including the program’s three tax incentives:

    • Job Tax Credit, which offers $2,000 per new full-time equivalent job created
    • Investment Credit, which is equivalent to 25% of the purchase price of the building
    • Rehabilitation Credit, which is equivalent to 30% of qualified rehabilitation costs.

    Each of the three tax credits is dependent upon the creation of at least two new full-time equivalent jobs.

    General criteria for designation include communities with a population of less than 15,000; a core downtown area with structures older than 50 years; evidence of blight or disinvestment in the downtown area; implementation of a strategic plan in the downtown area; and a completed market analysis, which indicates gaps within the local business makeup.